Standing on Ceremony

From the politics of choosing a flower girl to determining how and where guests will sit, wedding ceremonies are fraught with challenges. Donna Garlough tackles readers' quandaries, big and small.

wedding challenges

Illustration by Christopher Silas Neal

Is it okay to have members of the opposite sex in our bridal party, such as a groomsmaid or a bridesman? Should I make my best guy friend a groomsman instead? M.T., Cambridge

The point of a bridal party is to have your besties standing by as you take the plunge, and it’s silly (not to mention woefully outdated) to exclude a friend based on gender. So even though your grandma may disagree, I say, go ahead and bend the rules. You’ll probably want to take steps to ensure your mixed bridal party looks cohesive in photos, however, while also making clear who’s with you. If a guy joins your ‘maids, consider having him wear a vest or tie in the same shade as the dresses. If a woman joins the groom’s party, have her wear a simple cocktail dress that coordinates with the guys’ outfits — black for tuxes, or a neutral hue to match khaki or linen pants. Whatever you do, though, never foist your friends — or your siblings, for that matter — upon your betrothed’s bridal party. Chances are, he already has too many people jockeying for a place on his own list.

We want a casual outdoor ceremony, so our planner suggested seating guests on big blankets, floor cushions, or hay bales. My mom thinks this is uncouth. What should we do? S.K., Dedham

Did she really say “uncouth”? Doesn’t she mean “supercool and fun”? I’m sold on the idea, but assuming Mom is helping foot the bill, you’ll probably have to compromise. First, determine what she sees as the problem. Is she worried that some guests will balk at sitting cross-legged in formal attire? If so, provide a few above-ground options, such as poufs or rustic benches with colorful cushions. Or does she fret that some relatives will find it difficult to sit down or stand up? No problem — you can always line up wooden folding chairs around the edges of the site for less-agile attendees. I’ve even seen weddings in which everyone stands throughout the ceremony (this works well for short ceremonies and in places where you can’t easily set up chairs, such as the beach or in a public park). Alternately, you could give in and create a traditional seating arrangement for the nuptials, provided you get your hay bales and floor pillows for the cocktail hour. That way, everyone wins.

My fiancé wants to share a toast with his groomsmen before the ceremony, but I don’t like the idea of drinking prior to the wedding. How do we reach an agreement? R.O., Milton

Welcome to married life, my friend. Because this won’t be your last exercise in creative compromise, now is the time to learn a bit of marital logic. First, let’s play out the knee-jerk responses: Get your way and your man will be subjected to jabs of the “You’re so whipped!” variety while clinking cups of Sprite. If he gets his way, you’ll wonder whether his “I do” is coming from him or Jose Cuervo. Here’s a better solution: Let the guy have one freakin’ beer. In fact, set it up for him. (Trust me, wedding days are so fraught with worry and activity, there’s no time for serious boozing before the ceremony.) Get in touch with his best man and arrange to have a bucket of the groom’s favorite brew — enough for him and all his boys to have one — sent to his room a few hours before your nuptials. Include a little love note. This deeply thoughtful gift will reassure him of your awesomeness, so he’ll be more than ready to tie the knot (sans frat-boy snickers or tequila shots) by the time everyone arrives.